This week, the curtain will rise on a new kind of UFV theatre production: a two-act play entirely crewed, acted, and directed by students, performed in the black-box theatre space at CEP. The Romeo Initiative, a romantic-comedy spy thriller based on the true story of an East German program that targeted West German secretaries in the 1970s, is a pilot project for the students enrolled in Heather Davis-Fisch’s THEA 316D class, who have been working on the project since September 2015.
The 16 students were entrusted with producing an entire show for the special topics course, in comparison to the cross-course, faculty-assisted productions that UFV Theatre has put on in the past. Assistant director Phay Gagnon says the faculty’s influence being kept to a minimum “puts the onus on the students to create … and the responsibilities that UFV staff typically take over.”
While all of the students involved in The Romeo Initiative have prior experience working with UFV Theatre in various roles such as designing, acting, or directing, for this project they decided to take on roles and responsibilities that each had never attempted before. Gagnon believes this will allow the class to expand and explore their capabilities: “It is an upper level course and we’re there to learn, to make mistakes, and to explore, and to see what we can do in the process and how that reflects in the product.”
Gagnon says her class chose to perform The Romeo Initiative because it fits their mission statement: “Our company seeks to create high-quality and unconventional theatre through a collaborative process that challenges both ourselves and our audiences with works of contemporary relevance.” According to her, the production of The Romeo Initiative allows them to follow that mandate by requiring creative design choices; the play, written by Canadian Trina Davis, features a three-player cast and dual perspectives, which is an unconventional writing choice.
“It’s like any story where you see one side of things, but you see how it can be interpreted by someone else,” says Gagnon.
The Romeo Initiative debuted at Calgary’s 2011 Enbridge playRites Festival, where it was the 100th Canadian play to have its world premiere at the festival. In another landmark, it is also the first time that a UFV production will be held at the CEP campus instead of at Chilliwack North. The upcoming UFV production will also be the first time The Romeo Initiative has been performed by students, as well as the first time UFV will have granted its students complete creative control over a production.
“They are going to see direct proof of how capable UFV theatre students can be,” says Gagnon.
The Romeo Initiative runs from the January 14 to 17 at the CEP campus’ performance studio in room A2106. Tickets are available through email@example.com.